Formally known as the Ficus elastica, the rubber plant is part of the Moraceae family. It originated in Southeast Asia and was once used as a source of natural rubber before the invention of synthetic rubber. Though it can grow to be quite large, the rubber plant is also a lovely indoor plant that is durable enough to handle varying conditions and a bit of forgetfulness If you’re considering adding one of these beauties to your home but are unsure of the proper rubber plant care needed for a healthy plant, keep reading. We’re going to dive into everything you need to know to grow your very own rubber plant, both indoors and out.
Like many other indoor plants, the rubber plant doesn’t like to sit in a pool of water. That’s why it is important to use well-draining, well-aerated potting soil. This allows the water to flow downwards, giving the roots what they need before it drains out of the base of the pot. The best soil for these plants is equal parts peat, pine bark, and coarse sand or perlite, but most store bought potting soils will work just fine.
You can also add fertilizer occasionally to help support healthy growth. Though it isn’t needed all of the time, it should be added during their summer growing season to keep the plant well-stocked in nutrients. When the rubber plant goes dormant in the colder months, you can take a break from fertilizing. Use a water soluble fertilizer, or slow release capsules.
Though it likes bright light, the rubber plant doesn’t do well in direct sunlight. The heat from the sun’s rays can scorch the leaves, so it is best to keep them back a bit from your windows. Many gardeners will place their rubber plant in front of a window with a sheer curtain between it and the light which reduces the heat the plant is exposed to. This gives the plant the light it needs to stay healthy without causing any damage.
The type of rubber plant you buy also determines how much light to give it. Some rubber plants have large, thick leaves with an oblong shape and a dark green color but there are also variegated varieties available. These can have leaves that have some marbled cream, white, or gray mixed with the green on the leaves. All of these varieties need brighter sunlight to help bring out their unique coloring. If the coloring begins to fade on any of the rubber plant varieties, they aren’t getting enough sun.
Rubber plants prefer more moisture to less, though this doesn’t mean that you should risk drowning them. The soil should be kept moist at all times during their growing season to keep the plant happy. You can also wipe down or mist the leaves to help them absorb more sunlight and to keep them fresh between waterings. Use room temperature water to avoid damaging the roots when watering.
During the dormant months of the plant’s cycle you can allow the top few inches of the plant’s soil to dry out between watering. This will ensure that you’re not overwatering your rubber plant as they will need less water during this time. You should also pay attention to the amount of light the plant is getting at all times. More light means more heat and faster evaporation, so plants in bright light will need more frequent watering.
One way to tell if your plant is getting the right amount of water in any season is to pay attention to the leaves. If they are curling upward, check the soil. It will likely be too dry, so increase how often you’re adding water to the plant. If the leaves are turning yellow or brown and dropping from the plant, the soil will likely be too wet, so give it more time to dry out before you water it.
The tropical origin of the rubber plant is quite humid but this plant can do well in less humid areas as well with regular watering and misting. It tends to thrive in temperatures between 60 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Outside of that it can survive when the temperature drops to 50 degrees Fahrenheit if needed, although this should be avoided. Rubber plants are sensitive to abrupt temperature changes so try to keep your home at a consistent temperature.
Other Rubber Plant Care Tips
Rubber plants are low maintenance and don’t need a lot of extra care. Size wise, it will grow to fit the container it is in. If you want a larger plant, transplant it into a pot that is about an inch larger in diameter than its current one. This will give it more space to continue to grow.
Though this may not be too much of an issue on an indoor plant, rubber plants may attract mealy bugs, aphids, mites, or scales. Keep an eye on your plant and wipe any bugs you see off the leaves. If you’re looking for tips to control bugs we have an article that talks about natural pest control techniques.
It is also a good idea to keep your rubber plant away from any children and pets in your home. It can cause some mild stomach issues, diarrhea, or vomiting if consumed, depending on how much of the plant is eaten. The sap could also cause skin irritations, so be sure to thoroughly wash your hands after touching it.
If you want to propagate your rubber plant, the process is quite simple. Take a small branch from your healthy plant and allow the sap to dry on the stem. Then place the cutting into soil or water until it begins to root. Then replant it in a pot and let it grow. This is a very simple process, but can take up to a month.
Rubber Plant Care
Rubber plants are a fantastic choice for growing indoors. The trees are relatively low maintenance, and grow well in a typical home.
Why is My Rubber Plant’s Colors Fading?
These types of rubber plants (known as Variegated) need extra light to support their unique colors. Fading colors often means that the plant needs more light.
Do I Need To Prune a Rubber Tree
No, rubber trees do not typically need to be pruned.
What Causes Brown Spots On My Rubber Plant?
These are often caused by too intense sunlight hitting the plant. Try moving your plant to an area with slightly less direct sunlight and see if the spots go away.
Are Rubber Plants Safe For Cats?
The milky sap, or latex, that is secreted by a rubber plant is poisonous to cats. That said, the reaction is usually minor, and only present a danger if the cat is ingesting parts of the plant.